Diana grew up on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She has memories from growing up that are pretty aligned with my New York upbringing, but I definitely missed out on the post-sailing class ritual of eating veggie burgers after school at the Grateful Deli. Luckily, this isn’t a competition because I’m totally winning with slices of pizza + bagels.
When figuring out the recipe for these delicious, vegan veggie burgers, Diana created a vision for me of texture, flavor and the accoutrements. It was essential to have sprouts and smear the bun with mustard before assembling and they had to be massive, like a “barely able to hold it” huge burger. I adapted her memories just a bit to follow some basic rules on making veggie burgers and this is where we ended up. Apparently, I make burger dreams come true. She took a bite and cried!
First, mix up the ingredients. I like a little bit of everything for a balance of flavor. Got a bunch of leftover veggies, some rice and the bitter end of a container of hummus? Whip up a veggie burger to switch up the leftovers situation.
Second, cook everything first! Seriously. Those carrots and onions are definitely not going to soften and see some tasty caramelization when they’re mushed in a burger. That’s just not how science works. They’ll also just make your burger mushy as they lose their moisture while you’re trying to sear your burger – counter-productive. If using fresh vegetables, I grate then sauté them all together until they lose a lot of moisture and I start to see some color on them. If the veggies are raw, the burger will end up wet and mushy.
Diana, don’t read this one: Don’t make them too big! Even thought we crave a giant burger, veggie burgers can be oddly mushy when they’re made into a really thick patty. If you want a giant burger, load it up with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, whatever or put two thinner patties on the bun. If they’re thin, figure about ½ – ¾ of an inch, you’ll get the patty brown and crispy!
Lastly, getting it to stick together. This is usually the downfall of a homemade veggie burger. If you have a food processor, you can absolutely use it. I have one but Diana doesn’t and we’ve both made veggie burgers and lived to tell about it. I wouldn’t just throw everything in there because we like some texture, but pulsing the “grains” (we used rice, beans and quinoa) is super helpful in getting them to stick together. Full disclosure: I’m not vegan and I scramble one egg and mix it throughout so they’re pretty fool-proof to flip. Going vegan? Really mash those beans – they’re like healthy, edible, food glue – or add a ¼ cup of rolled oats to the grains to help it hold.
Best part? You can make a bunch and freeze them. I sear them all when I make the patties, freeze and then reheat in the toaster like the classy, food professional that I am.
- 3 cups cooked grains – we like something starchy like brown rice, something that will crisp up like quinoa and something that will squish together like beans (It is encouraged that you start saving your leftovers in a plastic bag in the freezer so this doesn’t become an unrealistic project. Chinese takeout brown rice, leftover risotto, beans from your Mexican feast, whatever.)
- ¼ cup rolled oats – OR – one egg, scrambled (obviously use oats if you’re vegan)
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 1 bell pepper, finely diced or grated
- 1 medium zucchini, finely diced or grated
- ½ medium onion, finely diced or grated
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced or grated
- 6 medium mushrooms, finely diced or grated
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- alfalfa sprouts, for garnish
- 6 slices of your favorite cheese or dairy-free cheese product
- 6 brioche buns for the real deal, but I LOVE Martin’s potato buns so usually switch those out
- sliced red onion, for garnish
- ketchup, as needed
- In a large, preferably nonstick, skillet over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté bell pepper, zucchini, onion, carrot and mushrooms until they soften and start to take on a little bit of color, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Add minced garlic clove and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Set aside to cool. You should have about 1 ½ - 1 ¾ cup cooked vegetables if you’re using up leftovers!
- Stir soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of mustard and salt with the cooked vegetables when cool enough to touch. Fold in grains. Create 6 evenly-sized patties. I like to let them rest for at least 30 minutes or even overnight.
- In a large, preferably nonstick, skillet over medium-high heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sear patties until golden brown, without moving them as not to break them, approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side.
- Assemble burgers with a smear of mustard on the bottom of the bun, alfalfa sprouts, topped with a patty, cheese or “cheese” and raw, sliced red onion. We love ketchup. Do it up!
- If you have a food processor, break out the shredder attachment and shred all your veggies. If you don’t, practice your knife skills! You can pulse the grains and oats (or egg) together in the food processor to make things stick together a little easier. If you’re without one, no worries! You can mash the beans up and about half the rice with the back of a fork to get it just gummy enough to hold together.
- You can keep patties frozen for up to two months.